Whether you’ve seen the play or watched the film, Steel Magnolias has become synonymous with the bonds that can exist between women and how humour and love can overcome the most difficult circumstances.
Humour and love have been essential in overcoming myriad difficult circumstances wrought by COVID-19 and now it is helping the local theatre community get back on their feet.
On now through Sunday, December 5, the Queensville Players, in collaboration with Theatre Aurora, are exploring these themes as they bring Robert Harling’s iconic play to life on their Henderson Drive stage.
The play, directed by Theatre Aurora stalwart Neill Kernohan, is a first-of-its-kind collaboration for the local theatre company and strikes just the right note for theatre-lovers who are now finding their way back to their beloved places in the audiences.
“A lot of folks coming out of the pandemic said, ‘Let’s do shows that people know, that are warm and feel-good that people want to come out to,’” says Mr. Kernohan. “They wanted to stay away from shows that aren’t necessarily comedies but are kind of fun. This is that kind of show.”
Over the course of the pandemic, Mr. Kernohan says theatre groups from across Central Ontario began looking to the future. It was soon apparent, he says, that companies with theatres to call their own, such as Theatre Aurora, were better positioned for a post-COVID recovery than those that need to find spaces from production to production.
The Queensville Players are a group that falls into the latter category, often mounting productions at Georgina’s Stephen Leacock Theatre.
“The Queensville Players weren’t allowed to get back into the building [for their production of Steel Magnolias], and since I happened to be the person directing the show, I said, ‘Come to our theatre!’ We’re now in sort of a partnership, which I hope continues, and I am kind of excited about it.”
This excitement is shared by assistant director Thanasaki Chionidis.
“There is such good chemistry, too, between all of our actors and us, being the production team,” says Mr. Chionidis. “It is one of those shows where you have very strong leads and that helps the story come along as well. It is also about people relying on each other in the good times and the bad times and I think people really need that right now, especially as we come out of the pandemic.”
From Theatre Aurora’s perspective, any way they can bring new people – including new groups – into their local theatre is a cause for celebration. Mr. Kernohan says theatre companies can sometimes be “very insular” and this collaboration has opened up new doors – for them and Queensville.
“For the Queensville Players in particular, it is going to bring more traction, especially to Queensville, where not many people know about the theatre company and it is going to help us grow our company as we go on,” says Mr. Chionidis. “Having a partnership and working with other theatre groups getting our name out there a lot more is really important to us now more than ever. We’re so far north, the furthest in York Region, and it gives us an opportunity to show others that we’re here, we’re willing to work with you, and I think it is nice what we have with Theatre Aurora.
“The story is really quite beautiful and I am really glad we chose this. They’re in for a real treat. We have some amazing cast members who put their time and effort into this show. You’re going to see some really fun comedy parts. There’s a lot of fun comedy in it, but there is also the seriousness and that’s where you know you rely on your friends with those difficult times. I think this is a show that is meant to bring people together.”
“And southern accents!” says Mr. Kernohan with a chuckle.
“And southern accents,” his creative partner agrees. “This story will definitely resonate with a lot of people who have lost loved ones during the pandemic and have needed the strength of their friends and family. My experience working with Neill and the rest of the cast and crew has been incredible. It has been an incredible journey to see the growth of the actors and to see the story come together. People are definitely in for a treat.”
For tickets to the remaining shows, visit theatreaurora.com.
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran